Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2022: Meet the finalists

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After a challenging round of qualifiers, the 25 finalists in our annual wellbeing event have now been selected. 

They’ll be put through their paces – in a test of their speed, power and endurance – at Tom Kemp’s Farm Fitness gym in Essex on 17 September.

See also: Video – Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2021 Finals

Men under 40

John Carlisle

Age: 27

Location: Dumfriesshire

John Carlisle

John Carlisle © Richard Stanton

John plays rugby with Dumfries Saints and enjoys many other sports, including football, badminton, cycling and gym visits.

He fits these around working on the family livestock farm, sending beef and sheep to the family’s abattoir, which supplies about 100 butchers and wholesalers across the UK.

“I believe that showing a positive mindset doesn’t only benefit myself, but everyone around me, and can help and encourage others to become more proactive and determined,” he says.

“Mental wellbeing is very important because I believe that enjoying what you do in life is key to having a positive and happy experience in everything you do.”

Daniel Moon

Age: 28

Location: North Yorkshire

Daniel Moon

Daniel Moon © Richard Stanton

“Exercise is something I rely on to keep me strong, in every sense of the word,” says Daniel, who works on the family farm near Skipton.

Alongside a job that involves a lot of physical activity, he does CrossFit and is a CrossFit coach. “It’s really great to see first-hand the positive effect that exercise has on others, especially people new to the sport,” he says.

“Exercise benefits my own mental health massively, so I do as much as I can. Mental wellbeing is still not talked about enough, but it’s not something to be embarrassed about, and there are plenty of people/organisations out there to talk to if you are struggling.”

Andrew Corrigan

Age: 34

Location: East Yorkshire

Andrew Corrigan

Andrew Corrigan © Richard Stanton

Andrew joined the family farming business near Driffield in 2017 after serving in the British Army.

“I’ve got a very busy job and four wonderful children, which means there’s always a reason to neglect personal fitness, so I find setting goals important,” explains Andrew. “This is usually by entering races – typically rowing, running, obstacle course racing, triathlon, cycling and coal-carrying. 

“Each one gives me a fresh target to work towards. From there, a training plan is developed and the time to train is prioritised. 

“I’m a huge fan of teamwork to keep everyone’s mind focused on a common goal. Along the way we look out for each other, and I encourage the team to be open about our thoughts, whether they be negative or positive.”

William Arden

Age: 27

Location: Lincolnshire

Will Arden

William Arden © Richard Stanton

Running and rugby are two of Will’s favourite pursuits, but he enjoys all types of sport.

He is also a regular gym-goer and personal trainer, which keeps him active and accountable, he says.

“I try to always be positive and optimistic about situations and help others see the bright side,” says Will, who is involved with the arable and deer enterprises on the family farm near Market Rasen.

“Mental wellbeing is important, as I – like everyone – have had a period where things weren’t going well.

“I try to help others in similar situations. I find talking always helps – so being a pair of ears for someone can go a long way.”

Grant Neilson

Age: 26

Location: East Kilbride

Grant Neilson running

Grant Neilson © Richard Stanton

Grant, who lives and works on a dairy farm just outside Glasgow, stays in shape by doing farm work and CrossFit training.

He used to play semi-professional rugby before sustaining a brain injury and had to undergo multiple operations.

“Training and working outdoors help me keep my mindset positive,” says Grant. “Mental health was a real issue for me in previous years after my injury.”

Eifion Roberts

Age: 26

Location: Anglesey

Eifion Roberts (front left)

Eifion Roberts (front left) © Richard Stanton

Having been brought up on a beef and sheep farm in North Wales, Eifion is now a farm manager in the dairy sector.

“I love keeping fit – and always have since a young age,” he says. “The first thing I did was kick a football when I was five and I went on to play football, then discovered rugby and later trial-running on the Snowdonia mountains.

“I love a challenge and training for it,” adds Eifion.

“Agriculture comes with bad and good days, so keeping a positive mindset is important.

“In the same way as ‘you are what you eat’, I’ve come to learn that if you surround yourself with good, successful people, you will eventually get into a good place.”

Ifan Beynon-Thomas

Age: 31

Location: Swansea

Ifan Beynon-Thomas lifting a weigh

Ifan Beynon-Thomas © Richard Stanton

Dairy and sheep farmer Ifan, from Hendy in South Wales, has represented Wales in cross-country running and played semi-professional rugby for more than 10 years.

“Farming involves working round the clock, seven days a week, and the work is never done,” says Ifan.

“I have always found, however, that putting aside an hour or two a day to do sports and training helps me refresh my mind, and it is also an excuse to get off the farm for a few hours.

“Everyone has a different way of dealing with their mental wellbeing, but getting off the farm – whether it’s for training, a holiday, a night out or a catch-up with friends – is a great way to clear the mind and talk about something else.”

John Taylor

Age: 34

Location: Derbyshire

John Taylor

John Taylor © Richard Stanton

John works full-time for the NFU, alongside managing his own small herd and flock and working as a dry-stone walling contractor in his spare time.

“I’m the son of a farmer and proud to carry the mantle,” says John, who is a CrossFit athlete and trains most days. “You might also find me out at 5am, walking my collie before training.

“Exercise benefits my physical and mental health – and I make sure I talk with those close to me to avoid any spirals of negativity. But I also make sure I ask others – whether I meet them in a personal or professional capacity – if they’re OK or if they need to talk. People need people.”

Henry Corp

Age: 24

Location: Wiltshire

Henry Corp lifting weights

Henry Corp © Richard Stanton

Having studied and worked as an engineer, Henry now works on the family arable and beef farm near Chippenham, while studying a one-year course at the Royal Agricultural University.

“I have set up a gym in a barn which I use most mornings to do functional fitness training before starting on the farm. I also enjoy running when the weather is nice,” he says.

“I find that being outdoors really helps me be happy, and this was a major reason for leaving my previous job as an engineer.

“Sticking to a structure of training most days helps keep me positive.

“Mental wellbeing is important to me, because enjoying life and what you do each day is what life is about.”

Conor Mulholland

Age: 26

Location: Cumbria

Conor Mulholland throwing a weight

Conor Mulholland © Richard Stanton

Conor lives on a farm with 70 cattle and 50 sheep at Great Orton, and works in the family butchery.

“Since I was young, I have always played sports such as football and cricket,” he says. “I still play cricket for Wigton, but my biggest passion outside work is CrossFit and I train five times a week.

“Mental health is important, because farming can be very lonely, so fortunately for me I also work in our butcher shop, which gives me the chance to talk with customers during the day and see how they are and check up on them. I believe no one should be lonely, so it’s nice to talk to the elderly customers.”

Women under 40

Jacalyn Dunlop

Age: 26

Location: Glasgow

Jacalyn Dunlop

Jacalyn Dunlop © Richard Stanton

Jacalyn, who grew up on a beef and sheep farm in the west of Scotland, attends the gym five to six times a week, following a CrossFit programme during her workouts. She also attends a CrossFit gym for classes.

She occasionally runs outdoors, walks at nights and weekends with family and friends, and has climbed many Munros in Scotland.

“Training in the gym is my favourite way to achieve and maintain positive mental wellbeing,” she says.

“Having grown up in the farming industry, I know many people who have suffered from poor mental health and do not take time for themselves to relax, unwind and do something they enjoy.”

Erica Robison

Age: 33

Location: Cumbria 

Erica Robison lifting weights

Erica Robison © Richard Stanton

Fitness instructor and personal trainer Erica enjoys a couple of CrossFit workouts every week, along with running, spinning three times a week and boxing.

“I train my mind, not my body, in the gym and by running. It helps me remember to be grateful for all the things I have in my life.

“Fitness is a way of pushing your body to the limit, and it’s a brilliant way of meeting new people.

“Mental wellbeing is important to me, as I have three young boys who I have to teach that being positive brings positive things into your life, and that amazing things can happen if you step out out of your comfort zone.”

Lindsay Benson

Age: 33

Location: Shropshire

Lindsay Benson moving a tyre

Lindsay Benson © Richard Stanton

Lindsay works as a dietitian in the NHS, alongside helping out on the family beef and arable farm.

“With a young child, a busy farm, a very active dog and working part-time in the NHS, I don’t have lot of time to sit down.

“As well as that, I am a keen CrossFit athlete, taking part in several competitions in the UK and abroad. We have created our own little farm gym in the cow shed.

“A positive mindset for me is ensuring I have time to myself to relax, destress and be active. I find working out brings good mental wellbeing through the release of endorphins and happy hormones.”

Daisy Hawkins

Age: 28

Location: Cumbria

Daisy Hawkins  on exercise bike

Daisy Hawkins © Richard Stanton

“I stay in shape by training in my local CrossFit gym daily, usually every morning before work,” says farm vet Daisy, who also runs her own flock of 120 sheep. 

“Once I have been to the gym first thing in the morning I feel I have a much stronger mindset for facing whatever the day brings. Working as a farm vet can bring all sorts of obstacles for which I need both mental and physical strength.”

“I am also fortunate enough to live on the edge of the Lake District, so am able to walk the dogs over the fells. We do all our own shearing and fencing and other maintenance work which helps me keep strong and fit.”

Alice Sheffield

Age: 30

Location: Surrey

Alice Sheffield with weight

Alice Sheffield © Richard Stanton

A one-time keen rugby player, who represented Harlequins and Wasps, Alice is now focusing on CrossFit as her main form of exercise, although she also likes to go for walks and runs.

Helping out on her dad’s turkey farm also keep her fit and strong, she says

“Being physically active certainly helps generate a positive mindset, as does looking after your diet and sleep pattern.

“It’s massively important to keep positive, to enjoy what you do day to day and along the journey that we are all going on. You have to make the most of every day.”

Katie Bleekman

Age: 29

Location: Devon

Katie. Bleekman (left) running

Katie. Bleekman (left) © Richard Stanton

Katie runs her own fitness business, based at the family’s farm.

“I specialise in training equestrians from all disciplines around the world, so many of my clients are involved with farming or hunting, and it’s amazing to show them how fitness can transform their lives, as it has mine, and how it can benefit your farm, personal, riding and yard life.

“Mental and physical wellbeing go hand in hand and I promote this strongly as a fitness coach. Training and exercising really boosts your confidence, gives you focus for yourself and, if you’ve ever struggled with your mindset or headspace, it can really transform things for you.

“It’s great to push yourself to be the best, achieve new things and feel awesome while doing it.”

Melissa Rowell

Age: 37

Location: Hampshire

Melissa Rowell lifting weight

Melissa Rowell © Richard Stanton

Melissa keeps fit by training five times a week – at the farm, at the gym and doing off-road running in the countryside. 

“I also enjoy nothing more than getting in the campervan and taking the dog on walks and hikes round the UK, exploring our beautiful landscapes.”

The 37-year-old is keen to help spread awareness of mental health issues.

“Losing a friend to suicide at 23 years old, who was in agriculture, very quickly opened my eyes, and I wanted to understand more and help others,” she says.

“I’ve also learned through my own struggles that it’s OK not to be OK. It’s important to help others to open up and find a way to talk or get help in difficult times.”

Katie Major

Age: 36

Location: Kent

Katie Major lifting weight

Katie Major © Richard Stanton

Katie, who works as an agriculture manager for a red meat processor, is a former rugby player and rower who now heads to the gym about four times a week and tries to get out for a walk every day.

“When the weather is good, I like to get out on my bike. I try to sign up to sporting events and challenges, such as taking part in the London-to-Brighton bike ride.

“It’s hugely important to look after your mental health. Exercising and staying fit has kept my mental wellbeing in check and allows me to escape into another zone. 

“Exercising gives me a sense of release and I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of being fit and healthy, but also how this allows me to take part in a whole range of pursuits and activities.”

Immie Jones

Age: 24

Location: Gloucestershire

Immie Jones  on exercise bike

Immie Jones © Richard Stanton

Royal Agricultural University student Immie says she’s “fully immersed” in the CrossFit way of life.

“The equine industry was previously a massive part of my life and, when I left, I was immediately drawn to another type of exercise that is not just physically demanding, but also tests your mental resilience,” she says.

She trains five or six times a week, as well as walking her two dogs every day.

“Sport, exercise and gym can have a hugely positive effect on people, especially socially.

“I strongly advocate the need for people to get out of the ‘bubble’ of the farm and get to the gym. Even a brief visit is a change in scenery and a chance to talk to people from completely different walks of life, which is so important for our mental health.”

Emily Halsall 

Age: 29

Location: North Yorkshire 

Emily Halsall with weights

Emily Halsall © Richard Stanton

When she’s not busy as a veterinary nurse-cum-technician at a farm practice, Emily likes to do CrossFit workouts and get out and about in the countryside.

“I enjoy walking and swimming in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District,” she says.

“I used to captain a rugby team and, when I stopped playing, I knew I’d miss the support and camaraderie you get from a team sport, but I’ve found a great new community at CrossFit.

“I like to go to the gym and be surrounded by likeminded, positive people. I make sure I talk to my friends and family and let them know I am there for them, too.”

Men and women over 40

Graeme Slater

Age: 42

Location: Lancashire

Graeme Slater with weights

Graeme Slater © Richard Stanton

“I really try to stay fit – exercise is great for producing endorphins and helps you get away from the stresses of work-related issues,” says Graeme, who used to play rugby and football and is now a regular at the gym.

Having been brought up on a farm, he now works in a dairy making cheese, but continues to work at the farm during evenings and weekends.

“Keeping fit really gives me a positive outlook on life,” says Preston-based Graeme.

Gethin Owen

Age: 46

Location: Conwy

Gethin Owen  throwing a weight

Gethin Owen © Richard Stanton

Gethin works for farm consultancy Promar, keeps suckler cows and sheep and grows spring oats on 60ha near Abergele, North Wales.

“I think it’s really important to take time out to exercise,” says Gethin who might clock up 3,000-4000 miles on his bike and run 1,000 miles every year, plus complete a circuit session every week.

“Even during busy times, it’s essential to take time out to look after your body and mind, and we shouldn’t view it as being selfish or not fully committing yourself to your career.”

He’s also completed marathons, half marathons and 10k runs – and enjoys taking part in the local Saturday morning park run with the kids.

Ed Freeman

Age: 53

Location: Essex

Ed Freeman with weights

Ed Freeman © Richard Stanton

Tenant farmer and agricultural contractor Ed aims to train five or six days a week.

“It has always been my release from the stresses of work, especially the long hours working alone,” says Ed, who lives near Chelmsford.

“I also enjoy the social aspect of training. I try to promote fitness to older men and women who may feel that it’s all too late, and I try to inspire and motivate those who I come into contact with to get moving more, no matter what age they are.

“Fitness is huge factor in maintaining good mental health at any age.”

Lucy Sheffield

Age: 44

Location: East Sussex

Lucy Sheffield lifting weight

Lucy Sheffield © Richard Stanton

“I always say I train for my brain, and the effect it has on my body is an added bonus,” says Lucy.

Having spent 20 years “off farm” working in different industries, she returned full-time to the family farm two years ago, and is now a partner in the mixed arable and poultry business.

“I love the hour or two I spend training each day,” says Lucy. “You get so focused on what you are doing that, in that moment, there is no time to think about anything else. Some may see this as selfish, but I see it as enabling me to also give more effort and commitment to all the other areas of my life.”

Jenny Newby

Age: 40

Location: Wiltshire

Jenny Newby running

Jenny Newby © Richard Stanton

Former Royal Agricultural University student Jenny works for the Arab Horse Society and runs 30 sheep on local rented land with her husband.

“I love having the sheep – it’s hard work during lambing and shearing, which we do ourselves with all our other commitments, but my daughter loves it and it is so good for her to see where some of her food comes from.”

As well as taking part in CrossFit sessions, she enjoys endurance riding. “I ride three or four times a week to get my horse fit, and compete in endurance rides up to 80km, but I’m hoping to tackle some 100km rides.

“Walking the dogs and chasing a few sheep around in-between that keeps me fairly fit.”